Children’s birthdays chez Collier are celebrated with pancakes for breakfast. We owe this idiosyncratic tradition to the cycle of the moon, its influence upon the religious calendar, and the births of Louis and Rosa just two days (and three years) apart in mid-February: Shrove Tuesday regularly coincides with one of these birthdays. To deflect accusations of favouritism, I started making pancakes for the May birthdays too, even on a school day when time was tight. I hope you’ll continue the tradition with the next generation. The basic recipe below, from Delia Smith, is followed by two that elevate the humble pancake to something more luxurious.
Makes 12-14 pancakes
110g plain flour, sifted
A pinch of salt
2 large eggs
200ml milk mixed with 75ml water
50g butter, melted
Caster sugar, lemon wedges, Nutella, jam
You will also need a solid 18cm frying pan, kitchen paper, a palette knife or pan slice, and a ladle.
Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and break the eggs into it. Begin whisking the eggs – by hand or with an electric whisk – drawing in any bits of flour from around the edge. Gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, whisking all the time. When all the liquid has been added, scrape any stray bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream. Stir in 2tbsp of the melted butter and leave the batter to rest for half an hour if you have time. (Tip: you can leave it overnight in the fridge if you’re worried about the school run the next morning.)
Have the rest of the melted butter to hand and use a wodge of kitchen paper to lubricate your pancake pan before you cook each pancake. Get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium and start with a test pancake to check if you’re using the correct amount of batter (2tbsp per pancake is about right). Using a ladle, pour in a quantity of butter and immediate tip the pan around to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only 30 seconds or so to cook: lift the edge to see if it looks the right colour. Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife – the other side will need a few seconds only – then slide it out of the pan onto a plate.
To serve, sprinkle each pancake with lemon and sugar or spread with whatever concoction takes your fancy, roll up and devour.
A French classic, crêpes suzette enjoyed a resurgence in popularity after Delia revived them, along with a number of 1960s favourites, in her 1993 Winter Collection. As is the case for much culinary history, the origins of the dish are disputed (you can read the Wikipedia entry here).
Ingredients for the crêpes
1 quantity basic pancake batter (see above) +
grated zest of 1 medium orange
1 tbsp caster sugar
For the sauce
150ml orange juice (from 3-4 medium oranges)
Grated zest of 1 medium orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp Grand Marnier, Cointreau or brandy
50g unsalted butter
A little extra of your chosen spirit for flaming
Make your crêpes: try to make them a bit thinner than the basic pancakes above, using slightly less batter for each one, and don’t worry if they look a bit ragged because they’re going to be folded.
For the sauce, mix all the ingredients, except the butter, in a bowl. Melt the butter in the frying pan, pour in the sauce and heat gently. Place the first crêpe in the pan and give it time to warm through before folding in half and then half again to make a triangular shape. Slide this to the edge of pan, tilt the pan slightly so the sauce runs back into the centre, then add the next crêpe. Continue like this until they’re all re-heated, folded and well soaked with the sauce.
To flambé them, warm a little liqueur or brandy in a ladle over a gas flame, then set light to it. Pour the flaming liquid over the crêpes, then serve on warmed plates.
A decadent Hungarian classic, this was created by Károly Gundel, the original owner of Budapest’s famous Gundel restaurant. I sourced a recipe online over a decade ago but made these for the first time only last year. We found the brandy overpowering, so I’ve adapted the recipe after consulting one of Granny’s Hungarian cookbooks.
1 quantity basic pancake batter (see above)
60g caster sugar
Zest of ½ lemon or orange
2 tbsp dark rum or brandy
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
¾ tsp cornflour
2 egg yolks
100g dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp dark rum or brandy
¾ tsp vanilla essence
60g butter to finish cooking the pancakes
Make the filling first (even a day in advance so that the flavours can develop). Finely chop the walnuts, or blitz in a food processor, and the raisins, and combine with the sugar, citrus zest and rum/brandy.
Make your pancake batter as described in the basic recipe above and leave it to stand while you get on with the sauce.
For the chocolate sauce, beat the cocoa, sugar, cornflour and egg yolks together. Bring the milk and cream to the boil and pour over the yolk mixture, whisking. Return to the heat and cook gently, stirring, until the custard thickens. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, rum/brandy and vanilla, stirring until combined. Keep the sauce warm while you cook the pancakes.
Cook 12 pancakes as described in the basic recipe above and stack them on a plate. Now place a spoonful of filling in each pancake and fold into four so that they look like triangles. Repeat with the remaining pancakes.
Heat a large frying pan with the butter and add the filled pancakes, frying gently on both sides to warm them through. If you’re feeling brave enough to flambé them, warm some more rum or brandy in a ladle over a gas flame, then set light to it. Pour the flaming liquid over the pancakes, then serve with the warm chocolate sauce poured over the top.